business news in context, analysis with attitude

Time has a piece that looks at showrooming - which is what happens when consumers go to a bricks-and-mortar store, check out products, then use their smartphones to go online to see if they can get a better price, using those phones to make the purchase if the price is better.

The conclusion: while showrooming used to be perceived as a threat to traditional retail, "more recently, retailers and analysts have said that we have moved on to the next step in the evolution of showrooming and 'omnichannel' or 'multichannel' shopping. By now, everyone must know that showrooming exists. But rather than being considered mainly as a major threat to one’s business model, showrooming is now more often viewed as an opportunity."

It is an opportunity, the story suggests, because many bricks-and-mortar retailers are embracing the idea that they need to be more than just that, that they need to make their wares available in a variety of venues, physical and virtual: "Offering in-store wi-fi allows shoppers to browse prices and products elsewhere, and so long as the retailer being showroomed has competitive prices - and perhaps even halfway decent customer service - it has the edge on closing the deal on the spot.

"A showrooming study from Parago indicates that it’s wise for retailers to price items within $5 of what Amazon charges; 63% of surveyed consumers said that if an item cost $50 in a store but $45 at Amazon, they’d buy from Amazon (assuming the store didn’t offer price matching)."

Casey Carl, president of multichannel merchandising at Target, put it this way in a recent blog posting: “Pundits and the media have cast showrooming at various times as either a scourge to brick-and-mortar retailers or as a death knell—another proverbial nail in the coffin. However, less publicized is the fact that showrooming is also the greatest opportunity for retailers.”
KC's View:
Two points here, if I may.

First of all, I think it is a little disingenuous to accuse the media of creating all the tsouris about showrooming. We may have spotlighted it, and maybe even thrown a little gasoline on the fire, but concerns about it certainly was not a media invention. (There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among bricks-and-mortar retailers when Amazon had the temerity to create an app designed to let consumers engage in showrooming.)

Also, speaking as just a small media cog, I'd like to point out that from the time the word was first coined, I've been saying here on MNB that retailers needed to stop whining and start competing - that it was imperative to give consumers a reason to look up from their smartphones when in a store, that in fact, for a smart and competitive retailer, showrooming could be an opportunity.

It was only going to be a death knell for retailers that were close to going on life support.